JOHANNESBURG, So. Africa (Dec. 18)
A minor incident in a Transvaal Town Council involving the reputation of the Union of Jewish Women of South Africa, is provoking stormy protests here by Jewish organizations and is being condemned by the press.
Every year the Randfontein branch of the Union of Jewish Women of S. A. receives a grant from the Randfontein Town Council towards its philanthropic work, which is performed without discrimination of race or creed, and which includes the running of a soup kitchen for poor Africans in the district.
When the grant came up for routine approval in the Randfontein Town Council yesterday, one Councillor, Mr. P. J. Fouche, said that before approving it, the Council should ascertain the nature of the activities of the Union of Jewish Women, and find out whether any of its members were connected with any subversive organization.
He said he wished to apologize to the Deputy-Mayor, M. Katz (the only Jewish member of the Council), for bringing this up. He did not wish to imply that Jews in general were involved in subversive activities, but since “many Jews had been detained under the 90-day detention law” in connection with such activities, he thought the Council should not approve the grant until it had assured itself on the point he had raised.
J. J. Zwiegelaar, chairman of the Management Committee, said that the Union of Jewish Women was a registered charitable organization and the Council’s annual grant had been automatic and should continue to be made. The organization could, however, be asked what its aims and objects were, and whether any of its members were connected with subversive organizations.
In a press statement today, Mrs. Sylvia Silverman, national president of the Union of Jewish Women, said that her organization was astounded that such a question should ever have been raised about a registered welfare organization with 60 branches throughout the country, whose work is social, cultural, educational, and for goodwill and the welfare of both Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The work was well known and had been commended by civic leaders all over the country, she stressed.
N. Philips, president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, asked for comment, described the incident as “scandalous” and “completely irresponsible,” and as “the type of smear that can do incalculable harm, not only here but overseas as well.”
“The Star,” largest South African evening paper, in an editorial headed “Race Smear,” condemns Mr. Fouche’s raising of a groundless issue, and criticized the Randfontein Town Council for agreeing to make “the outrageous inquiry, thereby smearing not only a reputable organization and its members, but all Jews.” It pointed out that there were individuals of all sections among the persons detained under the 90-day detention law, and asked whether the Randfontein Town Council proposed to make a similar enquiry into every organization which asks it for a grant, declaring “Unless it does, its decision on the Union of Jewish Women will stand condemned as one of blatant anti-Semitism.”